Is Victoria still committed to its psychosocial regulations?

Victoria’s Minister for WorkSafe, Danny Pearson, has emerged from the occupational health and safety (OHS) wilderness to restate his commitment to introducing legislative amendments on psychosocial hazards at work. He has been stalling on these for a very long time, but he has recently provided an update to Parliament.

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Broadening the OHS perspective

Over the last decade, the occupational health and safety (OHS) profession has been challenged by a new perspective on OHS and its professional interaction with it. Safety Differently, Safety II or some other variation are important and intriguing variations, but they seem to remain confined to the workplace, the obligations of the person conducting a business or undertaking, and/or the employer/employee relationship. The interaction of work and non-work receives less attention than it deserves.

Many OHS professionals bemoan OHS’ confinement to managerial silos but continue to operate within their own self-imposed silo. One way for OHS to progress and to remain current and relevant is to look more broadly at the societal pressures under which they work and how their employees or clients make OHS decisions. Some recent non-OHS books and concepts may help.

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“Human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together… MASS HYSTERIA!”

Victorian businesses and occupational health and safety (OHS) people are hungry for advice about managing psychosocial hazards at work if the scenes at today’s Work Health and Safety show were any indication. The sad part of the popularity of the topic is that some of the advice being given is wrong or outdated.

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OHS needs to face some moral questions

Regular readers may have noticed that I want to push the occupational health and safety (OHS) profession to think deeper and more broadly about their usually chosen career’s political and socio-economic context. The reasons for OHS’ overall lack of success in making work and workplaces safer and healthier are not only within those locations and activities but also in the limitations that many OHS people place on themselves.

More and more, I look outside the existing OHS research and trends for explanations of why OHS is treated shabbily by employers and corporations and, sometimes, the government. A new book on Growth by Daniel Susskind is helping in this quest. Below is an extract from the book that, I think, helps explain some of OHS’ predicament.

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International Conventions are attractive but largely academic

Last week, Australia’s Parliament released an information paper on a “National Interest Analysis” of International Labour Organization Convention No. 187: Promotional Framework for Occupational Safety and Health Convention adopted in Geneva on 15 June 2006. Does this mean anything to the local occupational health and safety (OHS) profession? Yeah, Nah, Maybe.

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Different OHS messages to different audiences

Last week, WorkSafe Victoria held its annual Business Leaders’ Breakfast. The keynote speaker was Karen Maher, who spoke about the need for an effective and respectful workplace culture that would foster a healthy psychosocial environment. Her presentation would have been familiar to many of the occupational health and safety (OHS) and WorkSafe personnel in the audience, but it may have been revolutionary for any business leaders. Maher outlined the need for change but not necessarily how to change or the barriers to change.

The event did provide a useful Q&A session and afforded the new WorkSafe Victoria CEO, Joe Calafiore, his second public speaking event in a week.

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Workplace deaths are convenient for no one

I don’t believe that International Workers Memorial Day (IWMD) or the World Day for Safety and Health at Work should be held on any day other than April 28 each year. I don’t think Christmas should be moved or ANZAC Day. All these days are of significant cultural importance in Australia, and each of these dates has been set for the last few decades in the case of IWMD and ANZAC Day, and centuries for Christmas. Commemorating International Workers’ Memorial Day on a different day places logistical reasons and convenience above the significance of the day and the message it gives to the community.

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